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April 2014 South Africa - Balule Buffalo and Plains Game (Video's Added)
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Dates: 6th April - 18th April
Areas:
• Balule Private Game Reserve, Near Hoedspruit
• Stormberg Mountains, near Molteno, Eastern Cape
• East Griqualand, near Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal

Outfitter: Crusader Safaris

PH’s: Rad Robertson & Daniel Oosthuizen for the Balule and then Aramand Aucamp for the Stormberg onwards

Rifles: Sako 85 Hunter in .375 H&H plus a Sako 85 Synthetic Stainless in 30.06 fitted with a PES sound moderator

Bullets: I used .375H&H Federal 300grain Barnes Triple Shock and Federal 180grain Barnes Triple Shock in the 30.06

Game seen: Elephant, White Rhino, Lion, Hippo, Greater and Cape Kudu, Eland, Caracal, Bushbuck, Zebra, Impala, Porcupine, Baboon, Black and Blue Wildebeest, Jackal, Steenbok, Warthog, Springbok, Mountain Rhebok, Vaal Rhebok, Common Reedbuck, Blesbok, Fallow deer, African Wildcat, Cape Fox, Bat eared Fox, Oribi

Game Hunted: Baboon, Blesbok, Caracal, Eland, Jackal , Mountain Rhebok, Steenbok, Springbok, Oribi, Warthog

Game Hunted but not taken: Warthog, Eland

In a perfect world I was hoping to go to Zim or Mozambique and do my first buffalo but with my wife and I trying for our first child any malarial areas were out of the question so when Andrew Pringle told me that he had managed to secure 5 Bulls in a non fenced area on the edge of the Kruger I was quick to get my deposit down.





6th April- 7th April

We took the 9pm London to Joberg flight on South African Airways who unlike British Airways do not charge for a rifle (BA is now £50 for rifle case and £50 for ammo box per flight). Plane was a modern Airbus and was as comfortable as economy can possibly be despite this I failed to sleep a wink. We landed pretty much on time and were met off the plane by a representative of Henry Durheim’s riflepermits.com and whisked through customs and immigration. On this occasion I had got organised and sent my details in advance so I had a pre-approved permit so we were through the police station in less than 5mins.

We met up with Rad our PH and set off for the drive to Hoedspruit. It should take around 5hrs but took longer in his Diesel Landcruiser. We signed in with anti poaching on our arrival in the APNR but had not enough light left to sight in the rifle so settled into Ntaba, a comfortable private bush camp.


Day 1
After a sleepless night on the plane early bed was in order and I was asleep by half past nine. I awoke at half twelve wide awake as my body clock was screwed up after a trip to the US a few days before. Lying awake I got the full authentic ‘African experience’ with a lion roaring ever closer as the hours went on. On getting up that morning I found a young male and a female just 50 yards behind the hut who were shortly after joined by a monster black manned male who proceeded to attack the young male in the bushes behind our bedroom which gave my wife a rude wake up call

We started the morning sighting in the rifle, the Peli case had done its job though and it was still ‘dead on’ at 100yards and required no tweaking.
With that job done we started checking water holes for tracks. It became evident by the end of the morning that the Buffalo were fewer in number and not moving as much than the hunt that Rad had done there some three weeks earlier. He had seen 800+ buffalo on that trip including several large herds, lots of bachelor groups and lone bulls but the weather had been much hotter and the buffalo were moving to water more.

It might be useful at this stage to outline the rules we were under:
1) We were after a <38inch bull
2) We were not allowed to shoot a bull from a herd
3) We were asked if at all possible to take one from the Ntaba side of the property as the previous two bulls had been taken from the Mveni (spelling) side. With no fences and only 5 Buffalo on licence a year this seemed slightly unnecessary but it was only a request rather than a rule.
4) I added to these by explaining to Rad that I was not fussed about spread but was rather after a really old bull, if possible with big bosses. Rad produced a rather fuzzy photo of a bull he had seen on his previous hunt that had been survived a lion attack. It was exactly what I was after and as it turned out had been seen several more times recently by APNR employees. We were to use that photo as our yardstick when judging other bulls.



Most of the 1st day was spent in the truck checking all the water holes and which were being used. The day was relatively uneventful buffalo wise and we only got a good look at two bulls which were both only just hard, there was no sign of the herds at all. We did however see a solitary Hippo, 4 Rhino and couple of Elephant bulls.














Despite being very tired my sleep patterns continued to be odd and I woke up in the middle of the night and failed to go back to sleep


Day 2
Overnight there had been some drizzle and the morning was overcast and cool. First thing we saw a great old bull in the river which we watched for a long time. We decided he was not the bull in the photo but a great contender should we see him later in the week:







With the cooler weather no much was moving but we did manage to catch up with a group of three bulls later that morning, one old 40”+ bull and two younger companions.
After lunch we kept checking water holes and found a pair of bull tracks that led down into a small valley that ran parallel to the boundary. We followed the tracks for ages but eventually lost them in the thick stuff due to the large numbers of other tracks, some old, some fresh. This was clearly a bedding area for quite a few bulls, there was also a couple of defined routes through the area.

We returned to a water hole that we had seen fresh lone bull track on the day before and sure enough the bull had returned a few hours previously for a drink and a mud bath. We took up the trail and had probably gone the best part of a mile with the tracks getting no fresher and the mud on the bushes still dry when we heard a snort just in front of us, we instantly fanned out guns ready but the bull crashed off after a few seconds. Exciting stuff – it turned out we had got into just 14 yards from his bed.



On our way back to camp in the truck we were treated to a great view of the dominant rhino bull for that area, the biggest one I have ever seen and certainly the closest. Later that evening sitting in the camp drinks area we heard a single shot ring out in that direction and about that distance (we alerted the anti poaching team) so fingers crossed he is still around.


Day 3
Much to my annoyance I awoke (feeling rather groggy having resorted to a sleeping pill) to find it was raining again. We picked up track of a lone bull early and the tracker and Jark, the representative from the APNR did a great job of staying on them in the rain. We bumped the bull but saw enough to see he was good and old and worth following. We bumped him twice more as he had a habit of turning downwind every so often. Having bumped him three times it had crossed my mind that he might be getting a tad grumpy so when Daniel shouted ‘he's coming he's coming’ we all instantly had our guns ready. As it turned out we had walked right into two rhino’s not our buffalo but it certainly got the heart pumping when it crashed through the bush 30 yards in front!






With our bull increasingly headed downwind and us thirsty and slightly tired after a long walk we returned to the truck. We were soon checking another water hole and on the tracks of another bull. As it turned out it headed for the same thick area that we lost one the day before and sure enough we lost the tracks again. Making our way to lunch we were joined by my wife and James Campbell the owner of the camp. The plan was to have lunch on a hill above the river and hopefully see some buffalo coming in for a drink while we ate.

On our way to lunch we were told that two old bulls had just been seen in the river bed so we decided to delay lunch and check, we arrived to see them leaving the river bed and were soon following. After a short walk across a fairly open area we heard a noise in front of us and figured we had spooked the pair of bulls. As it turned out we had just heard them dislodging stones crossing a small ravine. Upon reaching the ravine we had a clear look across and two the two bulls both of which were old but one particularly so. I was on the sticks with the bull in the crosshairs twice at about 45 yards but in both cases he had trees across his vitals.





The bulls moved off and we followed, it was very hard to go quietly on the loose rocks but when we got up the other side we had only gone a few paces when one of the two was visible and the sticks went up. ‘Is that the old one’ I asked Rad and split seconds after he confirmed I squeezed the trigger. He was quartering on to us and the first shot on his left shoulder rocked him hard (As it turned out it had taken out the top of his heart). He surged forwards in the direction he was facing with his head down so I quickly put another shot into him, the way his head was I had to put it high but it rocked him really hard again and turned him so he was heading straight towards us. With his head low I aimed for the spine on the back of his neck, my shot was a couple of inches to the side but put him down.



Walking towards him he sounded his death bellow, nevertheless to be sure I skirted behind him and put a final shot in the back of his neck. And my first Buffalo was done.

Forgive the indulgent amount of photos:



















As you can see he was everything I was after – super old (anyone care to add their guess?!) with loads of character. Upon comparison with the pictures and turning him over to reveal the scar from the lion attack it was amazingly the Dagga boy which we had been looking at the picture of for three days.

Lion attack scars


Back at the skinning shed the congratulation continued with everyone enthusing about him. He certainly looked a bit different to the other bulls in the salt




Day 4
The previous evening we decided against the long drive to the Stormberg so had booked flights from Hoedspruit (Eastgate Airport) to Joberg and then onto East London. Sadly our first flight was so late we missed the connection to our second flight. Luckily we got on the later flight standby and made it rather later than intended to Easy London where our PH Aramand was waiting. After a uneventful 3 hr drive we were back in the Stormberg.
 
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Day 5
We made an early start and headed for a farm that Aramand had seen a good mountain Rhebuck on a couple of weeks previously. En route William his tracker made a great spot of a Steenbok and after a very short discussion and sneak we had a Steenbok on the deck. I had been encouraged to shoot one of these dainty little antelope previously on my honeymoon and was disappointed with how small and young that one had turned out to be. This one was totally the opposite:



Making our way up onto the mountain we started to glass for our intended quarry and soon we were spotting Mountain Rhebuck (and some Vaal Rhebuck). We had dismissed several rams in the 5.5-6inch class and climbed higher when we spotted a better looking ram at 750 yards under some cliffs. As best we could we judged the ram on my digital camera which has a huge zoom and decided to make a stalk. We got right above the group on the cliffs and despite being able to see 10 females we could not spot the ram again. Eventually we spooked them, getting a brief glimpse again of the ram but it was a great stalk nonetheless and we were just a little unlucky.









In the afternoon we went to some large cliff on his Dad’s farm to look for Eland or perhaps a warthog for my wife, neither were in evidence sadly but we got to watch some Kudu and Fallow while the sun went down.

We went out lamping for a Caracal on the same farm where we had been that morning; the farmer had lost 11 ewes to a big Caracal over the previous couple of weeks. It was not to be the night as a combination of a full moon and a strong cold wind meant we saw very little. We did however see a very large Mountain Rhebuck Ram so we resolved to make an early start and try and catch him in the morning.


Day 6
At first our 05-30 start seemed to be in vain as we couldn’t find the big Ram we had seen in the lamp. Eventually we found him and two females tucked into some dead ground under a bank. We decided to make a long stalk round and come in above him, this we achieved but ended up far closer than we had anticipated and they heard us crawling. He ran up the hill and then along a Jackal proof fence for a long way and he then disappeared through a hole in the fence and over the horizon. Thinking he was lost we made our way back towards where the truck was parked only to see our old Ram reappear being chased by a younger smaller Ram. With a bit of luck we managed to get below him and I got a shot into him a little low. A follow up shot was required but we had our Ram.

Ram we turned down


Another we turned down


The one that got away the day before




The old Ram we took - We didnt spot him at first




That afternoon my wife joined us and we went back to the big Cliffs to look for Eland or Warhog. We found a herd of 6 Eland and watched them for around an hr. The closest they got to the Cliff was 275yards and in retrospect we maybe should have taken a shot. I wanted to get in close and take one with my .375 and they seemed to be making their way to a waterhole so we repositioned the far end, left my wife filming on top and made out way down the steep. Everything seemed to be playing out when they spooked, we checked the film and they never looked in our direction plus we were several hundred feet above them so wind seemed unlikely – our best guess was that the cows moving spooked them.





Just before they spooked


Sunset on the cliffs


Just before dusk my wife shot a cull Mountain Rhebuck for our supper the next day


That night we went out lamping after a Caracal. The first spot we set up the Fox Pro and called but all we called in was a large dog! Lamping around I shot a Domestic cat/ wildcat cross and a big dog Jackal. It was amazing quite how much Aramand hates Jackals and what a personality change came about him when it appeared! They are a clearly a very destructive pest on the sheep and chase the whole herd around and up against fences till they catch one Vs the Caracal which is very much a silent killer and the sheep never knows what hit it !





 
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Day 7
06-30 start and went to the big cliff to look for Eland. We did see two great old bulls but they were simply too far down and too much meat would have been wasted as it would have been too far to carry it out so we left them alone. It was great to watch them though and some rutting Fallow bucks.

Picking up my wife and a lunchbox we headed off to try and get her a black Springbuck cull for a flat skin. The farm is one we visited last year with quite a bit of luck but this year all the Springback were on the flat plain and none in a stalk able position. Eventually and with some trials and tribulations she got one with a 180 yard shot.





Despite being very tired we resolved to go out lamping again. This time on his own farm close to a series of rocky cliffs and ledges where he had twice had close encounters with a very big tom Caracal. We parked up got on the back with the rifle on the cab roof and set the Fox Pro 60 yards upwind of the truck and set about calling. Wrapped up against the cold I soon found myself nodding off and was fast asleep after a while, Aramand soon followed me which Jack manning the lamp found particularly amusing. After 50 mins of calling with no response we up sticks and moved, a short kip and a can of coke and done wonders and I was feeling much refreshed. Lamping off the farms tracks we soon had two Cape Foxes in the bag, these elusive little chaps had never stood in the lamp for me before so I was please to add a new species – they also predate on lambs in their first few weeks of life.





Shortly after we added a Porcupine which had Jack smiling from ear to ear as they are his favourite food



By now is was 01-30 and we were headed home albeit on a loop when we picked up a bright set of eyes a long way off – we both agreed they we could see a decent gap between the eyes and it might be a cat. The call was set up and we ranged the eyes at 650 yards, the eyes moved closer to the call and then stopped at 445yards for about 45 mins(during which we identified that it was big Caracal), we kept calling and eventually it started to come down the hill but diagonally across us so not really getting any closer. We risked moving the truck and managed to close the distance to 223 yards. When Jack put the light back on the cat was Sat looking straight at us, I asked if I should wait for a broadside shot but Aramand urged me to take my time but take the shot. Allowing for the bullet drop I put the illuminated dot just level with the top of the cats head, pushed the set trigger forward, steadied myself (this was one shot I really didn’t want to miss) and touched the trigger. The shot was met with a satisfying thump followed by pats on the back and handshakes all round – I think everyone was happy that no more late nights were required!

As we suspected he turned out to be a big Tom – My bullet had struck him perfectly in the chest and thankfully the 180 grain Barnes X had not damaged him at all as much to my wife’s annoyance he is destined for a full mount !






Day 8

We had a much needed lie in till lunchtime as we were tired and we knew the forecast was bad. The forecast was correct with low cloud and misty rain that makes you surprisingly wet – what in Scotland you would call a ‘dreich’ day. Anyway we decided Blesbuck would be one quarry that would still be attainable in the conditions. The first large lone bull we tried for was incredibly wild so we turned our attention to the herd on the next hill, Aramand picked one out from a distance and confirmed once we were closer. The shot ended up being 220 yards through a rapidly misting up scope but I had my Blesbuck. Another great animal.



We had a half hearted drive in the evening and saw a very Fallow but it was enjoyable to have a more relaxed day.



Day 9
We got up at 6 and returned to the big Cliffs but they were shrouded in clouds so we drove to another farm and had a look around and watched some rutting Mountain Rhebuck.
The poor weather seemed to be changing so we drove to a farm with a few warthogs to try and get one for my wife but despite it being a bit warmer all we saw were Fallow, Baboons and a couple of groups of Mountain Rhebuck.

We drove back to the big Cliffs but saw no sign of the Eland. We saw a big lone 48” Kudu Bull and some fallow bucks rutting though plus a group of Kudu cows with no Bull. I can see what Aramand loves this spot so much as there is always something new to watch.


Day 10

An 02-30 start (yes you did read that correctly) to drive up to Kokstad as I had asked Andrew to apply for an Oribi permit. The original plan had been to stop off on the way down from Hoedspruit but I had decided it was too much travelling for my wife so we ended up flying. Armand urged me to use the permit as they are hard to get and rules may change in the future so we decided to do a day trip. This was very close to where i took my Common Reedbuck last year.

We arrived at around 07-15 and after a quick chat with the farmer to give us some pointers we set off. Parking on the top of the first hill we had a glass and could see 6 from where we were. We stalked into the first pair and Aramand decided the first Ram was around 5” we had them bang to rights and it was a hard decision but we had decided the night before that 5.5 was our target. The second pair were a little more alert as a Common Reedback female had seen us and was giving alarm calls – looking through my scope Aramand judged him very similar to the first so we moved on. Checking over the edges we saw first a lone female which bounced off in that odd fashion that they run. The next edge looked at first to hold nothing but William, the tracked made a great spot of a pair bedded down in the grass. Using their low line of sight to our advantage we inched closer and stopped at about 100yards to judge them, it was tricky judging them through the grass but after a look through my scope we decided to take him. He was laid down arse end on to me so I had to judge where to place the bullet to hit the vitals. I judged it correctly and the bullet exited exactly on the front shoulder, he still jumped up and rang 40 yards and took a little while to expire which was incredible given the damage that the bullet had done internally.

Kokstad Views







One we turned down



Trying to judge in the grass







After a quick breakfast at the Wimpy (not had one of those for 15years at least!) we started the drive back – a long way to go but a great and unusual animal.
We even had the energy to go back to the big cliffs and looks for the Eland, we saw none but I shot a last min Baboon and we were treated to a stunning sunset.







A great last day.
 
Posts: 215 | Registered: 17 May 2011Reply With Quote
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Nicely done!!!
Thanks for sharing I enjoyed it!!!
Big CONGRATS tu2
 
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Nice read and great pics! Thanks for sharing.
 
Posts: 208 | Location: Fairbanks, Alaska | Registered: 15 August 2011Reply With Quote
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Nice report and some really outstanding photos.

Congrats on a great hunt!
 
Posts: 732 | Location: Helena, Montana | Registered: 28 October 2009Reply With Quote
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Great old Bull! The Steenbok and Blesbok are fantastic!


Frank



"I don't know what there is about buffalo that frightens me so.....He looks like he hates you personally. He looks like you owe him money."
- Robert Ruark, Horn of the Hunter, 1953

NRA Life, SAF Life, CRPA Life, DRSS lite

 
Posts: 11768 | Location: Bakersfield CA. USA | Registered: 30 December 2002Reply With Quote
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Well done Guy, great hunt and great report.
That buffalo stuff is addictive you know !!!
We are off to Cuba in a week so I'll make sure Peter sees your report.
Regards
Rob
 
Posts: 559 | Location: UK | Registered: 17 November 2006Reply With Quote
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Smokin' oribi! tu2
 
Posts: 14926 | Registered: 04 April 2005Reply With Quote
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Thanks all - was a fantastic trip all round.

Have fun in Cuba Robert - Good luck on the Grand Slam tu2
 
Posts: 215 | Registered: 17 May 2011Reply With Quote
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Congratulations on a great hunt. That Caracal is huge! I envy you!


"When the wind stops....start rowing. When the wind starts, get the sail up quick."
 
Posts: 10463 | Location: New Zealand | Registered: 02 July 2008Reply With Quote
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Man, great hunt and write up!
 
Posts: 68 | Registered: 22 February 2014Reply With Quote
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Awesome Buffalo Bull. Congratulations.
Enjoyed your report very much.
 
Posts: 705 | Location: Australia  | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Great trophies all around, but that steenbok ... Awesome.
 
Posts: 7341 | Location: Houston, Texas | Registered: 26 December 2005Reply With Quote
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Great old Dagga boy! Glad I don't have that tick problem. Congrats.
 
Posts: 4214 | Location: Southern Colorado | Registered: 09 October 2011Reply With Quote
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Well done on the hunt. Great place to hunt the Balule. I think I recognize a couple of those heads in the salt Wink

Cheers,
Mark.
 
Posts: 535 | Location: Victoria, Australia | Registered: 13 February 2007Reply With Quote
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Lovely old Buffalo and superb Oribi. Great pictures and report.


ROYAL KAFUE LTD
Email - kafueroyal@gmail.com
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Posts: 8343 | Location: Zambia | Registered: 10 April 2009Reply With Quote
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What a great Buff with loads of character, well done!


lets make a plan
 
Posts: 76 | Location: England | Registered: 29 April 2013Reply With Quote
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What a wonderful report and excellent photos!
Thank you for sharing
JCHB
 
Posts: 348 | Location: KZN province South Africa | Registered: 24 July 2009Reply With Quote
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Great old Buffalo Bull,and that Steenbok is outstanding along with all the other fine trophies.
Thanks for the Report.
 
Posts: 1659 | Location: Winston,Georgia | Registered: 07 July 2007Reply With Quote
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Grand old warrior!
 
Posts: 491 | Location: United Kingdom | Registered: 22 June 2007Reply With Quote
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Brilliant, the photos of East Griqualand and the Molteno area could make a bloke quite homesick. Oh sorry, I do live here.
 
Posts: 3295 | Location: South of the Equator. | Registered: 02 August 2009Reply With Quote
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great write up and great photos also.

Looks like you had a very enjoyable trip.
 
Posts: 412 | Location: Ireland | Registered: 12 May 2004Reply With Quote
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Great Buffalo and nice collection of critters.

Thanks for sharing your report and fantastic pics.


PH 47/2015 EC
HC 16/2015 EC
Ferdi Venter
ferdiventer@gmail.com
http://www.ferdiventerhunting.com

Nature at your doorstep
 
Posts: 305 | Location: SA Eastern Cape | Registered: 20 August 2011Reply With Quote
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Annoyingly my first shot on my Buffalo we failed to retrieve the bullet as it carried on into the guts somewhere but we did retrieve a couple of others that I thought some might find interesting. These are Barnes TSX 300 grain. The rounded off one was the insurance shot taken in the back of the neck at close range.







 
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Posts: 215 | Registered: 17 May 2011Reply With Quote
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Now that Buffalo has character! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

Jim
 
Posts: 1287 | Location: Cincinnati  | Registered: 28 May 2009Reply With Quote
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Great buffalo. Thank you for your fine report and fine pictures.
Jytte
 
Posts: 214 | Location: Denmark | Registered: 13 December 2010Reply With Quote
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Great report and photos !
We seem to be in the same parts of the world hunting albeit at different times.
Heading to Namibia in June with SAA. I have a question for you. Did you inform the airline in advance or just turn up with your rifle and ammo ?
If you contacted them in advance do you still have the number as I reckon I'm ringing the phone in Carlsbergs complaints department!
 
Posts: 412 | Location: Ireland | Registered: 12 May 2004Reply With Quote
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quote:
Heading to Namibia in June with SAA. I have a question for you. Did you inform the airline in advance or just turn up with your rifle and ammo ?
If you contacted them in advance do you still have the number as I reckon I'm ringing the phone in Carlsbergs complaints department!



I did ring them in advance although I don't believe it is essential like with some airlines, please don't quote me on that though, i would err on the side of caution and pre warn them. I rung customer services in South Africa from memory.

BTW They wanted the Rifle and ammunition in separate locked cases. They did give me the option of putting the ammo case in my suitcase but that would have put me over the weight limit so i sent it with the rifle.

There was no charge for handling the rifle and ammo.
 
Posts: 215 | Registered: 17 May 2011Reply With Quote
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Great report congrats.


Golf is for people that don't know how to Hunt and Fish.
The Al-Bino Vest

http://www.huntfishnw.com
 
Posts: 2190 | Location: East Wenatchee | Registered: 18 August 2008Reply With Quote
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Thanks for a fab report!


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
“A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition” ― Rudyard Kipling
 
Posts: 1213 | Location: London, UK | Registered: 02 April 2010Reply With Quote
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Great write up and a superb set of pictures...certainly a hunt to remember..well done.
 
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Fantastic.

I love that buffalo.

A real trophy!


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Posts: 215 | Registered: 17 May 2011Reply With Quote
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Superb buff, steenbok and oribi ! Congratulations to the two of you on what was clearly a great trip !

Charlie


"Up the ladders and down the snakes!"
 
Posts: 1486 | Location: South Africa & Europe | Registered: 10 February 2014Reply With Quote
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